The Ukraine crisis is threatening the stability of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which are heavily dependent on imports of Russian and Ukrainian wheat and grains. Rising prices and supply disruptions could trigger famine, protests and mass migration in the region.
The Ukraine crisis is threatening the supply of wheat and grains to the countries of the Middle East and North Africa CNBC on Thursday. As the US broadcaster notes, Russia and Ukraine would provide about a third of all world wheat exports, 20 percent of corn exports and 80 percent of sunflower oil.
Before the outbreak of war in Ukraine, more than 95 percent of Ukraine’s total grain, wheat and corn exports were shipped across the Black Sea, and half of these exports went to the so-called MENA-Countries (Middle East and North Africa; Middle East and North Africa). “This vital route is now closed, paralyzing Ukraine’s maritime trade after its ports were attacked by the Russian military,” CNBC said.
“Inflation and the economy are more important than political freedom” to the region’s stability, Kamal Alam, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, told CNBC. While countries would seek alternative sources for their vital food imports, rising global inflation and potential export restrictions made matters worse. In addition, there is the fact that local agricultural production is very limited in view of the water scarcity in the entire MENA region.
Egypt alone, the most populous country in the Arab world, imports 80 percent of its wheat requirements from Ukraine and Russia. Lebanon, which has been in an inflationary crisis for years, imports 60 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Both countries also supply 80 percent of Tunisia’s grain requirements.
Shortages in supplies from Russia and Ukraine could pose a threat to food security, particularly for low-income countries, which at the same time could be particularly vulnerable to potential aid diversion.
According to United Nations World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, the real impact of the Ukraine crisis will hit the MENA region by the fall. Beasley believes food shortages can trigger mass migration. “At a time of rising inflation, rising commodity prices and supply chain lockdowns, the entire region could experience an unprecedented economic shock this summer,” Taufiq Rahim, a Dubai-based senior fellow in think tank New America’s international security program, told CNBC.
More on the subject – Global Battle for Energy Resources: How is the Ukraine War Affecting the Middle East?